The Montreal Casino turned into “The Tiger’s Den” last night as Eye Of The Tiger Management staged another showcase card featuring several younger prospects from their huge stable of talent. Once again this fight crazy town sold-out the “Cabaret Room” to catch undefeated super lightweight contender Batyr Jukembayev in action as he looked to take his undefeated record to 18-0. Plus, an all-Canadian match-up in the middleweight division had Canuck boxing-heads stoked. Let’s get to it:
Performance of the Night:
Undefeated Batyr “777” Jukembayev (18-0) looked very sharp in the main event. Facing a late replacement opponent in Ricardo Lara (22-8), the southpaw dominated as he was supposed to. In the opening round, the Kazakh native inflicted significant damage with his left hand to both the ribcage and the jaw. Jukembayev’s left hand continued to find success in the second, as it crashed into Lara’s face several times, snapping his head back and sending him to the floor. With Lara hurt, Batyr was determined to get the finish, and he did just that after a second knockdown.
Jukembayev was composed and clinical from the bout’s onset, needing no time to find his rhythm. Wise to test the preparedness of his late-notice opponent, Batyr executed an aggressive game-plan to perfection and by scoring a quick, decisive finish he definitely inspired renewed interest from the fans. In addition to his lighting strike offense, Jukembayev was defensively responsible and took no meaningful shots in return. It’s another impressive win for Batyr who, if all goes to plan, will be close to a title shot before year’s end. After such an impressive performance, it’s hard not to think he already deserves one.
Fight of the Night:
The only all-Canadian match-up of the evening delivered in a big way. Local favorite Clovis “Hands of Stone” Drolet (11-1) of Beauport, Quebec, took on upset-specialist Mponda Kalunga (8-2), who trains out of Toronto by way of Egypt. Kalonga came in with a well-deserved reputation of upsetting the apple-cart, having already beaten four undefeated prospects in his career, and he was looking to shock fight fans once again.
There was a palpable intensity in the room from the opening bell, as everyone seemed to know this would be a highly competitive battle between two contrasting styles. Kalunga was unorthodox, using constant footwork to dance and throw shots from odd angles while on the move. Drolet, a former amateur standout, had a more conservative approach as he looked to get inside and land short hooks. After two close rounds, Kalunga seized control in the third by knocking Drolet down and badly hurting the Quebec fighter, but Drolet rose and the bell saved him from further punishment.
Kalunga then upped his advantage by scoring another knockdown in the fourth. It was less his power that was causing Drolet to fall as much as the awkwardness of his style and the timing of his shots. The Quebecer was having difficulty anticipating Kalunga’s moves and kept getting caught by punches he didn’t see coming. Although Drolet managed to regain his senses before the end of the fourth, the fans were concerned, a warranted sentiment given the imminent threat of a shocking upset. He had a long, uphill battle now if he wanted to win.
But Drolet showed admirable toughness to recover to take the fifth round, beginning a trend that would see both fighters trading shots and winning rounds. Drolet was more effective when he came forward and pushed Kalunga to the ropes, landing left hooks and jabs that snapped Kalunga’s head back. It was the Toronto fighter’s bad habit of retreating straight back with his chin up that made those opportunities available. But far too often, Drolet plodded forward without throwing punches, making him vulnerable to Kalunga’s long-range shots. The exciting battle was still up for grabs in the eighth and final round, but neither man edged it convincingly and tension was high as everyone waited for the judges’ scores.
The crowd’s hopes grew when the announcer declared a split decision, but to the dismay of the local fans, Mponda Kalunga got the win from two of the judges. It was a hard-earned and deserved victory as Kalunga had landed the sharper punches, scored two knockdowns, and showed superior overall skill. The Toronto fighter’s reputation as a prospect killer continues to grow, and he’s clearly earned more lucrative opportunities for the near future. While Drolet takes a step back with the loss, he’s still in his prime and can work his way back after learning lessons from this defeat.
Knockout Of The Night:
Artur Ziyatdinov (12-0) showed impressive ability in dealing with a robust, resilient foe in Cesar Hernan Reynoso (16-14-4). “The Crimean Lion” demonstrated sharp technical skills in working behind his jab and the straight right while staying defensively conscious. His power was noticeable as his shots hit home with thudding authority, including the finishing blow, which came in the fifth round. Ziyatdinov landed a scorching left uppercut from a southpaw stance that tested the extension limits of Reynoso’s neck, and followed it with a right hook that dropped Reynoso, where the stunned fighter decided to stay and let the ref count him out.
Ziyatdinov fought with a measured approach, while still landing vicious power shots. Neither overly cautious, nor reckless, he appears to have the necessary composure to deal with adversity, though he has yet to face a significant challenge. But one wonders if more killer instinct and a greater sense of urgency might serve this undefeated prospect well as there were times when he could have pounced on a stunned Reynoso but instead hesitated and looked to the referee for approval to continue. Ziyatdinov might also benefit from working on not sacrificing his height and reach to land his power punches.
That said, this was a valuable victory in his progression as he was able to stop Reynoso more quickly than several undefeated fighters, including Callum Smith, Nurzat Sabirov, and Arutyun Avetisyan. On a side note, Ziyatdinov took the mic after his victory and addressed the crowd in three languages no less. It was a classy way to end a memorable night for the Russian-Canadian.
Gutsy Effort Of The Night:
Reynoso put up a valiant struggle against Ziyatdinov over five hard-fought rounds. His record doesn’t do him justice because he is a game warrior, always willing to trade punches, and with the requisite chin to withstand fierce incoming shots and stay in the fight. And he again showed those qualities last night, just as he did against Sabirov and Avetisyan in consecutive bouts in 2019.
Despite not having the pop to deter Ziyatdinov, he made the talented prospect work hard. After being sent to the canvas in the third, Reynoso got up, dug in and battled back. Shortly after that, he got dropped by a shot behind the head that was rightfully not ruled a knockdown. But once again, the Argentinean warrior rose and demonstrated his doggedness by continuing to fight. At that point, he could have shelled up at and just tried to survive. That’s not in his make-up, as he kept going until the fifth round knockdown. He was more than entitled to surrender at that point, for he had shown boundless courage and proven his mettle once again.
Prospect of the Night:
Having a successful pro debut is not always guaranteed, even for top amateurs, but for 19-year-old Thomas Chabot of Thetford Mines, Quebec, his first foray into the pay-for-punch ranks was a most auspicious one. The former four-time youth national champion showed absolutely no trepidation as he violently dispatched Robert Niedzwiedzki (0-2). The Polish opponent had no chance as the southpaw Chabot demonstrated hand-speed and crisp punches to score three knockdowns and decide the bout in the opening round. Chabot showed excellent finishing instincts, pouring on the punishment once his opponent was hurt until he got the win. They call Chabot “The Ghost” so keep an eye out for sightings of this talented prospect.
Other noteworthy winners of the night include Adam Dyczka (2-0), Martine Vallieres-Bisson (2-0), Jordan Balmir (11-1), and Vincent Thibault (10-0), who all took necessary steps forward in their pro careers. — Jamie Rebner
Photos by Vincent Ethier.